You would be incorrect in assuming that Parkdale is living up to its reputation as a still down-and-out neighbourhood hovel for hipsters. Parkdale is gradually moving forward, carrying the torch of rejuvenation of Queen Street West beyond the break at Dufferin Street. Filled with many long-standing restaurants and bars, the neighbourhood is becoming more gentrified, with more music venues and upscale restaurants newly developing or taking over freshly renovated old buildings. The fabric of the neighbourhood is rich with Tibetan, North African, and West Indian influences, and all these notes integrate seamlessly to create a neighbourhood on the rise.
Found west of the Queen West neighbourhood, Parkdale is bound to the east by Dufferin Street and to the west by Roncesvalles Avenue. The neighbourhood stretches as far north as the CP rail line where it crosses Queen Street West and Dundas Street West, and the area extends as far south as lakeshore.
Parkdale is one of the most historic neighbourhoods in Toronto, originally founded as an independent settlement in the 1850s, incorporated in 1879, and joined to the City of Toronto officially in 1889. At those times, Parkdale was a residential area for the upper class, as you can still see from the current architecture of expansive Victorian homes, mansions, and early ornate buildings. The neighbourhood’s proximity to the Sunnyside Beach area and the exclusive Palais Royale dance hall have made Parkdale a destination for Toronto’s elite.
The fabric of the neighbourhood changed dramatically with the building of the Gardiner Expressway in 1955, which destroyed the southern area of the neighbourhood and the Sunnyside Amusement Park, effectively building a wall between the neighbourhood and the lakeshore. The affluent residents moved out, and with them, the money that made the neighbourhood a vibrant and rich community. The demographic shifted, bringing in lower-income and newcomer families.
Today, the neighbourhood remains mixed, with low-income families and high-income residents sharing the area. The neighbourhood is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, becoming a destination for boutique restaurants, bars, and art galleries.
- Both of the former dive hotels, The Drake and The Gladstone, have been converted into boutique hotels and performance spaces.
- Parkdale became the ongoing site of the Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s largest annual fair, in 1912
- In 1984, Pope John Paul II celebrated an open-air mass at Exhibition Place in the southern area of the neighbourhood.
- “Woo Hoo! Classic Simpsons Trivia,” a monthly trivia contest focusing on the first ten seasons of The Simpsons, got its start in Parkdale and continues to this day at the mainstay watering hole the Cadillac Lounge. The night attracts hundreds of people and has sparked similar nights in both New York and Chicago.
- Notable residents of Parkdale include Anderson Ruffin Abbott, the first Black Canadian doctor, and Canada Receiver General John Henry Dunn.
- The Black Lungs, a side project of Alexisonfire, wrote the song “Stay Outta Parkdale.”
THE GOOD NEWS
Gentrification has seen this neighbourhood rise from its previously suspect nature. Newly developed condos and lofts dot the area, with more and more newly developed bars and restaurants coming by the week, it seems.
THE BAD NEWS
The area previously developed a reputation of poverty, crime, homelessness, and mental illness. This is changing, but some pockets of the neighbourhood aren’t as gentrified as others. Some areas contain luxurious mansions that reside beside low-income housing. Parkdale is also home to a food bank and day centres for the homeless.
HOMES, ARCHITECTURE AND REAL ESTATE
From its opulent origins, Parkdale contains many large Victorian homes on larger lots. Many are still intact, while others have been sub-divided into apartments. You can find the bulk of the larger homes on Cowan Avenue, Dunn Avenue, and Melbourne Place.
A few high-rise apartment buildings stand along Jameson Avenue, but new development has taken to condominiums and loft spaces.
WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOUR?
Since the abdication of the wealthy residents in the early 20th century, young professionals and traditional families have made up a large amount of the population. Parkdale is now home to the Tibetan immigrant community, featuring North African and West Indian areas as well.
One of the reasons for the increased gentrification in Parkdale is its growing role as a new gay village, one of the larger such areas apart from the Church-Wellesley gay village. An influx of gay couples purchasing and renovating properties gives the neighbourhood the alternate nickname “Queer West Village.”
PARKS AND GREEN SPACES
There are a small number of parks and parkettes in the neighbourhood, but the neighbourhood is steps away from High Park, Toronto’s largest green space.
Here’s a list of some of the green spaces that dot the neighbourhood.
- Marilyn Bell Park: Located at the southernmost part of the neighbourhood, Marilyn Bell Park provides the neighbourhood with its beachfront. The park is named after a local Toronto girl who, at the age of 16, was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. The park boasts a beautiful boardwalk on the lakeshore, walking trails, and beautiful picnic spots.
- West Lodge Park: Located to the northeast of the neighbourhood, this park is equipped with two playgrounds and a wading pool, great for kids.
- Grafton Avenue Park: this is a small park area found at the Queen Street and Roncesvalles Avenue area.
- Albert Crosland Parkette: Central to the neighbourhood, children can play here on the two playgrounds and cool off in the wading pool.
- Dunn Avenue Parkette: This small, quiet parkette is south of Queen Street W.
- Dufferin and King Park: As the name suggests, this park is found on Dufferin Street south of King Street W. Children will enjoy the playground and splash pad.
RECREATION AND CULTURE
The most famous exhibition in the nation is put on annually at the Exhibition Grounds to the south of the neighbourhood. Every year, over 1 million people take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Canadian National Exhibition from mid-August through the Labour Day weekend.
In late July, the neighbourhood hosts the LabCab festival, a free festival of music, dance, theatre, poetry, and other arts for kids and adults alike.
There are several places of worship in the area.
- Parkdale United Church, 171 Dunn Avenue, (416) 532-1191
- Greek Orthodox Cathedral Annunciation Of The Virgin Mary Church, 136 Sorauren Avenue, (416) 537-2665
- Hindu Prarthana Samaj, 62 Fern Avenue, (416) 536-9229
- Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, 1372 King Street W, (416) 532-2879
- Our Lady of Lebanon Parish, 1515 Queen Street W, (416) 534-7070
- First International Baptist Church, 1303 Queen Street W, (416) 724-5172
- Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, (416) 532-3729
- Anglican Church of the Epiphany and St. Mark, 201 Cowan Avenue, (416) 535-8240
- Overcomers Missionary Church, 1504 Queen Street W, (416) 654-6271
- Parkdale Neighbourhood Church, 201 Cowan Avenue, (647) 926-6352
The main library servicing the neighbourhood is the Parkdale Library at 1303 Queen Street W, (416) 393-7686.
SCHOOLS, COLLEGES, AND UNIVERSITIES
With the large number of families in the neighbourhood, there are several schools for Parkdale students.
- Parkdale Collegiate Institute, 209 Jameson Avenue, (416) 393-9000
- Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School, 78 Seaforth Avenue, (416) 393-1280
- Fern Avenue Junior and Senior PublicSchool, 128 Fern Avenue, 416-393-9130
- St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School, 116 Fermanagh Avenue, (416) 393-5227
- Odyssey Montessori School Inc., 136 Sorauren Avenue, (416) 535-9402
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
As a side effect of the neighbourhood’s ongoing gentrification, art galleries and performance spaces are springing up in Parkdale. Here are some examples.
- Benjamin Phillip Frisch — Fine Art, 21 Garden Avenue, (416) 912-1513
- FIXT POINT, 1550 Queen Street W
- Gallery Thirteen Thirteen, 1313 Queen Street W, (416) 536-6778
We’re beginning to see an increase of privately owned shops in Parkdale, further extending your shopping options from the Queen Street West neighbourhood. As the neighbourhood grows, you’ll find the same local options coupled with more established franchises for the neighbourhood. If you prefer mall shopping, the neighbourhood is steps away from Dufferin Mall, an indoor mall with several shops to satisfy the most ardent shopaholic.
Dozens of restaurants, pubs, and bars line Queen Street West right through the heart of the neighbourhood. Because of Parkdale’s diversity, you’ll be able to find a favourite place without any trouble. Here are a few examples of some of the great places in Parkdale.
- Easy Restaurant, 1645 Queen Street W, (416) 537-4893
- Parts & Labour, 1566 Queen Street W, (416) 588-7750
- Amico’s Pizza Restaurant, 1648 Queen Street W, (416) 537-2222
- Mother India, 1456 Queen Street W, (416) 588-4634
- Om Restaurant, 1439 Queen Street W, (416) 532-3901
- The Sister, 1554 Queen Street W, (416) 532-2570
- Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, 1710 Queen Street W, (416) 534-6700
- Not My Dog, 1510 Queen Street W, (416) 532-2397
- Rhino Bar & Grill, 1249 Queen Street W, (416) 535-8089
- Bacchus Roti, 1376 Queen Street W, (416) 532-8191
The King Street and Queen Street TTC streetcars provide most of the east-west service for the neighbourhood, taking riders to St. Andrew and Osgoode stations, respectively. North-south access can be found on Lansdowne Avenue and Dufferin Street, providing access to Lansdowne and Dufferin stations, respectively.
Drivers are granted direct access to the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard by heading south on Jameson Avenue.
MEDICAL CENTRES AND DOCTORS
The hospital servicing the neighbourhood is St. Joseph’s Health Centre at 30 The Queensway, (416) 530-6000.
Other medical centres include:
- Parkdale Community Health Centre, 1229 Queen Street W, (416) 537-2455
- The Well of Alternative Medicine, 1344 Queen Street W, (647) 344-9355
Doctors of note include:
- Dr. Eva Dekany and Dr. Paul Dekany, 1724 Queen Street W, (416) 535-3334
- Dr. Maria Tuason Maria, 1644 Queen Street W, (416) 536-9898
- Dr Sponenka Popovic-Tadic, 1 Callender Street, (416) 535-1477
- Dr Vo Hen Thoi, 1380 Queen Street W, (416) 603-1300
- 14 Division, 150 Harrison Street, (416) 808-1400
- 14 Division sub-station, 275 Manitoba Drive
- Toronto Fire Station 426, 140 Lansdowne Avenue